A joint statement from the presidents of Calvert Hall and Loyola created a firestorm of protests on message boards and social media websites Friday from the schools' alumni, who had reached the conclusion that the 91-year tradition of their football teams meeting on Thanksgiving Day was in jeopardy.
However, there are no plans to move the game, known as the Turkey Bowl, from Thanksgiving Day, Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association executive director Rick Diggs told The Baltimore Sun on Friday.
The statement from Calvert Hall president Brother Thomas Zoppo and Loyola president the Rev. Thomas A. Pesci -- which was sent via e-mail to alumni, parents and friends -- was in response to Thursday's decision by the MIAA executive committee to have playoffs in the AConference for the first time next season. The league title has always been awarded to the regular-season champion.
"Recently, the MIAA voted for changes that would impact the Turkey Bowl, a 91-year tradition that is treasured by the Loyola Blakefield and Calvert Hall communities," the release stated. "Both institutions will appeal the decision of the committee."
Said Diggs: "We are not asking them not to play on Thanksgiving Day. We would never do that. I played in that game [for Loyola] for three years. I know the tradition, and I understand it. It's not something I'd ever want to see ended."
After Thomas Maronick Jr., a lawyer and a 1995 graduate of Loyola, read the statement, he was immediately in revolt. "It's a 91-year tradition," Maronick said. "It's tantamount to treason to the alumni, to the city of Baltimore."
When informed that the MIAA had made the decision to have A Conference playoffs but had no intention of stopping or changing the Turkey Bowl -- which has been played primarily at Memorial Stadium and M&T Bank Stadium since 1954 -- Maronick was mystified.
"The release suggests something is happening to the game," Maronick said. "As long as the game is played on Thanksgiving Day, if they're not changing the game, I don't know what they're objecting to. The press release is very strangely worded."
Diggs speculated that the schools' proposed appeal -- which led to the concern about the future of the Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving -- might be because of confusion over the league's playoff points system, which would take effect next season.
Each team in the A Conference will earn three points for a conference victory and one point for every victory earned by the teams it beats. The four teams with the most points will qualify for the playoffs.
"The statement from our two schools was made in response to blogs, rumors and calls from alumni who had heard rumors and were worried about the Turkey Bowl," Zoppo told The Sun in a statement delivered by Calvert Hall director of communications/coordinator of alumni reunions Doug Heidrick. "At this time, we have no further comment."
When told of Diggs' remarks about the game's not being moved, Heidrick said, "At this time I do not know that Brother Thomas or Father Pesci are aware of Rick's comments regarding the game."
Diggs said the initial playoff plan called for Loyola and Calvert Hall to play a mandatory regular-season game early in the season and that idea had drawn immediate protests from both schools.
"Initially, both Loyola and Calvert Hall were vehement in their objections," Diggs said. "So we went back to the drawing board. Now there is a game on the schedule for Sept. 30, but they do not have to play. If they do not play, however, they do not get points from that game. I understand that they might not want to play because it would take something away from the Thanksgiving Day game and none of our teams have ever played twice."
The regular-season schedule will end the first week of November, and the four teams with the most points will be seeded. If Loyola and Calvert Hall both make the semifinals, they will not play each other. If they both advance to the final, the championship game will be the Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving Day. If one or both of them loses, the championship will be the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the two teams will meet, as usual, on Thanksgiving Day.
Asked why the league decided to go with a point system instead of won-lost records, Diggs said it was done to balance the loss of the game between Calvert Hall and Loyola.
"Not having that one game in their records would hurt them more than losing the points," Diggs said. "We looked at the last two years, and each of those two years, Calvert Hall would have made the seedings. Loyola, which was 1-9 last year, wouldn't have, but they wouldn't have anyway. This year Loyola would have made it as the No. 4 seed. The only impact is that this year Calvert Hall would have been seeded No. 2 behind Gilman without playing the extra game and would have been No. 1 had they played it. But either way, they both would have been among the four seeded teams."
Loyola coach Brian Abbott did not return messages left on his cell phone, and Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said he had no comment.
Calvert Hall defeated Loyola, 41-13, this past Thanksgiving to clinch its first MIAA A Conference title, but trails the overall series 48-35-8.
Rich Scherr contributed to this article.